Israelis mourn losses in Mumbai attacks
Funeral of Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, brings vows to fight back – with 'light and goodness.'
KFAR CHABAD, ISRAEL
Thousands of Israeli mourners on Tuesday thronged the streets of this town, a place where neither Rabbi Gavriel nor Rivka Holtzberg – the young religious couple killed last week in the terror attacks in Mumbai (Bombay) – actually lived.Skip to next paragraph
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But this town, its name, and the stately brick brownstone building that the eulogies took place in front of – an exact replica of the building at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, N.Y., where their leader and rabbi once lived – is a symbol and spiritual home of the Chabad movement, which sends out emissaries to serve communities in some of the most far-flung corners of the world.
Couples like the Holtzbergs offer services to Jewish travelers, among them thousands of young Israelis. But in contrast to the Orthodox couple, the majority of Israelis who go to India each year are either secular or far less religious.
After finishing their mandatory army service they go looking for an escape – or for a spiritual self-discovery – and that often leads them to the door of the nearest Chabad.
"Amid all of the chaos there, it was an island of sanity," says Moshe Menachemov, a businessman who had visited the house run by the Holtzbergs while he was visiting India.
"How many young people have I meet who went to India to find themselves, to discover the world, and what did they find? Mom and Dad. Who was that? That was Gabi and Rivka," cried Rivka's uncle, Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Grossman, as he eulogized the couple at a funeral attended by several thousand.
"You hosted your visitors with hospitality just like our forefather, Abraham," Mr. Grossman said, sobbing. "You built a hotel there. Not for yourselves, for your own benefit, but so that every Jew and every human being could come by and have a warm house to go to," he said. Meals and lodging were free. The only goal, he said, was to bring people closer to God.
The night before, he spoke with the Monitor in Migdal HaEmek, in northern Israel, where he had once employed his niece and her husband in his 6,000-student boarding school. From this, and from their regular phone conversations since they moved to India to open a Chabad House, he knew the young couple well. He described people who had essentially given up their private lives in order to serve others who came through Mumbai looking for a meal or a place to stay.